Studies from the 2010s have shown that individuals above average height have higher average intelligence and higher salaries. Let’s discover why in this article.

Why are tall people smarter and better paid?

Why are tall people smarter?

As a preface, it should be noted that evidence from observational studies suggests that greater height is associated with a lower risk of a range of health problems, including coronary heart disease, stroke, accidents, and suicide (Batty et al. 2009; Lee et al. 2009; Paajanen et al. 2010; Whitley et al. 2010).

A team of researchers from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland found a correlation between genes linked to height and those linked to intelligence.

They published an article in the journal Behavior Genetics, in which they explain how they studied the DNA of 6,815 unrelated individuals.

This work allowed them to observe a direct correlation between height and intelligence: the taller you are, the smarter you are, according to their study.

The results of the study caused a stir, especially among people of short stature.

To carry out this work, the team used data obtained from Generation Scotland: Scottish Family Health Study, where medical tests and mental abilities were tested. Intelligence was measured through four basic measures: mental reaction times, language ability, processing speed, and recall powers.

During the data analysis, the team discovered what they describe as a “significant genetic correlation” between IQ and height, between taller and shorter people.

Those who were shorter were on average a bit less intelligent than those who were taller.

It is also important to note that the researchers do not suggest that all short people are less intelligent or that all tall people are more intelligent.

Instead, they indicate general averages over a population.

Finally, the research team asserts that 70% of the genetic differences found regarding IQ and height could be attributed to genetic factors, with the remainder being attributable to the environment.

Why are taller people better paid?


People have always cared about their own height and height of others, and in modern society, being taller is generally preferred over being shorter.

In addition to general preferences for being tall, the impact of height on personal success in various aspects of life, such as marriage or career, is a long-standing question that has been raised in existing literature.

For example, business executives were reported to be taller than the average American man in the early 20th century (Gowin, 1915), and in commercial industries, this phenomenon has persisted in later surveys conducted in the 2000s (Gladwell, 2005).

This has also been reported in politics, for example, during presidential elections (Persico et al., 2004).

Height can influence salaries through various channels related to health or genetics, abilities, or discrimination (Lundborg et al., 2014).

First Channel

Firstly, height can specifically reflect good genetic constitution, which is supported by the fact that humans have become taller as society has evolved economically, especially in the United States and European countries (Fogel, 1994, Heineck, 2005).

Height is also a measure of investment in health, largely during childhood (Duncan and Strauss, 1995). Height is easily observable and can thus signal an implicit health status to others, including employers (Duncan and Strauss, 1995, Dinda et al., 2006, Rashad, 2008, Böckerman et al., 2010).

Second Channel

The second channel is related to ability.

The magnitude of any height gain for labor market performance has been found to be greater in sales or management professions, where persuasion or negotiation may be more important for professional success (Judge and Cable, 2004).

This may result from different levels of interpersonal skills or simply a preference for taller employees.

Other theories underlying height gain in the labor market, especially in terms of wages, also emphasize potentially superior interpersonal skills of taller people compared to their smaller counterparts (Persico et al., 2004). Height affects how others perceive a person, but also how people see themselves (Judge and Cable, 2004).

It has been suggested that self-esteem could be deteriorated due to the stigmatization of being small, and thus, impact on low interpersonal skills (Martel and Biller, 1987, Wilson, 1968, Young and French, 1998).

Alternatively, taller individuals may develop above-average cognitive abilities, especially compared to children (Case and Paxson, 2008, Deaton and Arora, 2009).

Third Channel

The third channel explaining the high wage advantage is related to discrimination.

Duncan and Strauss (1995) reported that taller men are more likely to be self-employed and earn higher wages in self-employed and wage sectors.

These studies indicate that employer or client preference for taller people is a potential reason for improved labor market outcomes resulting from height (Sohn, 2015).

From a different perspective, statistical discrimination-based theories imply that short young people may invest less in their human capital, and thus, there is less return on investment in short people (Persico et al., 2004, Tao, 2014).

Indeed, a large number of studies in social sciences have reported wage advantages for being tall in both sexes, independent of ability (Behrman and Rosenzweig, 2001, Case and Paxson, 2008, Case et al., 2009, Heineck, 2005, Judge and Cable, 2004, Loh, 1993, Sargent and Blanchflower, 1994, Persico et al., 2004,

The Study

The present study provides additional evidence to the existing literature by exploring the height premium on wages in Korea, a country that has undergone a spectacular Westernization process in recent decades.

This Westernization process has been associated with parallel changes towards a preference for the typical Western physique, including a preference for height.

The present study used data from the Korean Labor and Income Panel Study (KLIPS).

An annual survey of 5,000 households and all their members was conducted.

The KLIPS is a nationally representative dataset based on multi-stage probability sampling and contains existing information on labor market characteristics as well as other key information, including height.

The present study drew data from 1998 and 2012.

The final sample of the study includes 34,015 person-year observations for men and 20,233 for women aged 20 years.

Study Results

Average monthly wages were 1,740,000 Korean won for men and 1,180,000 Korean won for women.

The average height was about 171 cm for men and 159 cm for women.

Nearly half (42.86%) of the male sample measured between 170 and 175 cm and about two-thirds of the females had a height between 155 and 165cm (33.71% for 155-160cm and 39.18% for 160-165cm).

About 11% of men and 16% of women had professional or managerial jobs and 18% of men and 12% of women had semi-professional jobs.

Other studies on the relationship between height and salary and/or intelligence

Height Gain in Earnings: Evidence from China – Aller Zheng (2022) source

  • This publication highlights a link between height and adult education and salary.
  • The data presented is from three waves of the Chinese General Social Survey conducted in 2012, 2014, and 2016.
  • The results suggest a link between height and level of education.
  • Greater parental education is generally associated with greater height in children and greater education for them.
  • Living in rural areas has a negative impact on height and pursuit of education.
  • Therefore, taller people are more likely to go to college because they are more likely to come from wealthy families, so taller people are more likely to earn higher salaries. Syllogistic!

What is the height premium? New evidence from a Mendelian randomization analysis in China – Jun Wang & co (2020) source

  • The study suggests a causal relationship between an individual’s height and their salary.
  • Based on the results of the sample of 3427 respondents, the study indicates that each additional centimeter would increase salary by 10-13%.

Is height important for income? Evidence from Russia – Nargiza Ibragimova from Cambridge University (2020) source

  • The study is based on a longitudinal study conducted in 2015.
  • The aim was to compare the height of individuals and their income.
  • The results of the study suggest that height is a significant predictor of income in Russia.
  • The results proved robust for a set of controls and tests.

The relationship between height and leadership: evidence from across Europe – Félix Bittman (2019) source

  • The study examines the mechanisms that make taller people earn better salaries.
  • The present analysis studies the relationship between height and the probability of holding a leadership position.
  • The study is based on multinational data from the European Social Survey of 19 countries.
  • It includes individuals aged 20 to 55 who are employed full-time.
  • The results reveal considerable differences between countries.
  • The study suggests that for each additional centimeter, women have 0.15 percentage points more chance of holding a leadership position.

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